Rus­sians ejected over bid to hack Swiss lab­o­ra­tory

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - WORLD - By Jamey Keaten Jamey Keaten is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

GENEVA — Dutch au­thor­i­ties ar­rested and ex­pelled two sus­pected Rus­sian spies months ago for al­legedly try­ing to hack a Swiss lab­o­ra­tory that con­ducts chem­i­cal weapons tests, Switzer­land’s gov­ern­ment con­firmed as it sum­moned the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to protest an “at­tempted at­tack.”

Moscow re­jected the ac­cu­sa­tion, the lat­est West­ern claim about Rus­sian spy­ing and other acts of in­ter­fer­ence. This time, the al­leged tar­get was the Spiez Lab­o­ra­tory, which an­a­lyzed sam­ples from the March poi­son­ing of for­mer Rus­sian spy Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter in Eng­land.

The Swiss con­fir­ma­tion came af­ter Dutch news­pa­per NRC Han­dels­blad and Swiss news­pa­per Tages-Anzeiger re­ported that two Rus­sians sus­pected of be­ing agents of mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence ser­vice GRU were kicked out of the Nether­lands this year as a re­sult of a Europewide in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Tages-Anzeiger said the two men were ar­rested in The Hague dur­ing the spring. Switzer­land’s Fed­eral In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice did not pro­vide de­tails, but said it worked “ac­tively” with Bri­tish and Dutch part­ners on the case.

“The Swiss au­thor­i­ties are aware of the case of Rus­sian spies dis­cov­ered in The Hague and ex­pelled from the same place,” FIS spokes­woman Is­abelle Graber said in an email. She said the agency helped pre­vent “il­le­gal ac­tions against a crit­i­cal Swiss in­fra­struc­ture,” and de­clined fur­ther com­ment.

The Swiss at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice said “two in­di­vid­u­als” in­volved in the al­leged hack­ing emerged dur­ing a broader in­ves­ti­ga­tion of al­leged “po­lit­i­cal es­pi­onage” that was opened in March 2017.

Switzer­land’s For­eign Min­istry said it sum­moned Rus­sia’s am­bas­sador to “protest against this at­tempted at­tack” and de­manded that Rus­sia “im­me­di­ately” end its spy­ing ac­tiv­i­ties on Swiss soil.

The Rus­sian state news agency Tass quoted Stanislav Smirnov, a spokesman for the Rus­sian Em­bassy in Switzer­land, as call­ing the Dutch news re­port “ab­surd.”

“We be­lieve that this is a new anti-Rus­sian bo­gus story made up by the West­ern me­dia,” Smirnov was quoted as say­ing. “It is ab­surd, just new ground­less al­le­ga­tions.”

Spiez Lab­o­ra­tory spokesman An­dreas Bucher de­clined to com­ment on the events in the Nether­lands, but said the lab had taken pre­cau­tions and no data was lost.

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